Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism (Post-Contemporary Interventions)

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9780822320647: Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
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Arguing that the contemporary commitment to the importance of cultural identity has renovated rather than replaced an earlier commitment to racial identity, Walter Benn Michaels asserts that the idea of culture, far from constituting a challenge to racism, is actually a form of racism. Our America offers both a provocative reinterpretation of the role of identity in modernism and a sustained critique of the role of identity in postmodernism.
“We have a great desire to be supremely American,” Calvin Coolidge wrote in 1924. That desire, Michaels tells us, is at the very heart of American modernism, giving form and substance to a cultural movement that would in turn redefine America’s cultural and collective identity—ultimately along racial lines. A provocative reinterpretation of American modernism, Our America also offers a new way of understanding current debates over the meaning of race, identity, multiculturalism, and pluralism.
Michaels contends that the aesthetic movement of modernism and the social movement of nativism came together in the 1920s in their commitment to resolve the meaning of identity—linguistic, national, cultural, and racial. Just as the Johnson Immigration Act of 1924, which excluded aliens, and the Indian Citizenship Act of the same year, which honored the truly native, reconceptualized national identity, so the major texts of American writers such as Cather, Faulkner, Hurston, and Williams reinvented identity as an object of pathos—something that can be lost or found, defended or betrayed. Our America is both a history and a critique of this invention, tracing its development from the white supremacism of the Progressive period through the cultural pluralism of the Twenties. Michaels’s sustained rereading of the texts of the period—the canonical, the popular, and the less familiar—exposes recurring concerns such as the reconception of the image of the Indian as a symbol of racial purity and national origins, the relation between World War I and race, contradictory appeals to the family as a model for the nation, and anxieties about reproduction that subliminally tie whiteness and national identity to incest, sterility, and impotence.

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Review:

"Walter Benn Michaels is one of the leading--and most controversial--Americanists of his generation. . . ."
--Jeffrey J. Williams, "The Minnesota Review"

""Our America" is not only a geneology and a critical reassessment of the legacy of modernism. It is also a provocation, to both our sense of history and our sense of ourselves."
--Carla Kaplan," Modernism/Modernity"

"Cunning, brilliant, acutely suggestive, often exhilarating to read, Michaels has nonetheless become the Alan Bakke of American literary criticism. . . . His neopragmatism version of negation simply forbids any account of American culture which would make reference to raced and ethnic identities. . . . Michaels is way too cynical to allow himself to be "for" anything."
--Eric Lott," Transition"

"Michael's name tends to provoke irritation and even outrage from many academics, as if his work constituted a personal insult. . . . The fact that he provokes such anger and resentment seems to me to signify that his work exposes ethical dilemmas which most academics are more comfortable repressing, that he somehow exposes the 'bad faith' of the University."
--Loren Glass," Modern Language Studies"

"Unlike so many of hsi academic colleagues, Michaels has little interest in the effort to design more intricate notions of group identity. . . . Rather, he wishes to jettison those notions altogether. . . . Race, for Michaels, isn't a fact of nature or a social experience; its an intellectual fallacy. Culture isn't a living tradition or a font of wisdom; it's more like a phantom limb or a false memory."
--Alexander Star, "The New Yorker"

"[A] fascinating thematic investigation of a paradigm shift from Progressive liberalism and universalist racism to a new mode of cultural pluralism-cum-nativist modernism. . . . The central argument of "Our America" provides a strong, often sharply formulated contribution to, and critique of, multiculturalism. . . . "Our America" is a strong book that makes historical argument about the 1920s in order to address our current obsession with 'culture'--which often turns out to be really 'race.'"
--"Modern Philology"

From the Back Cover:

Michaels contends that the aesthetic movement of modernism and the social movement of nativism came together in the 1920s in their commitment to resolve the meaning of identity - linguistic, national, cultural, and racial. Just as the Johnson Immigration act of 1924, which excluded aliens, and the Indian Citizenship Act of the same year, which honored the truly native, reconceptualized national identity, so the major texts of American writers such as Cather, Faulkner, Hurston, and Williams reinvented identity as an object of pathos - something that can be lost or found, defended or betrayed. Our America is both a history and a critique of this invention, tracing its development from the white supremacism of the Progressive period through the cultural pluralism of the Twenties. Michaels's sustained rereading of texts of the period - the canonical, the popular, and the less familiar - exposes recurring concerns such as the reconception of the image of the Indian as a symbol of racial purity and national origins, the relation between WWI and race, contradictory appeals to the family as model for the nation, and anxieties about reproduction that subliminally tie whiteness and national identity to incest, sterility, and impotence.

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9780822317005: Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism (Post-Contemporary Interventions)

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Book Description Duke University Press, United States, 1997. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English. Brand new Book. Arguing that the contemporary commitment to the importance of cultural identity has renovated rather than replaced an earlier commitment to racial identity, Walter Benn Michaels asserts that the idea of culture, far from constituting a challenge to racism, is actually a form of racism. Our America offers both a provocative reinterpretation of the role of identity in modernism and a sustained critique of the role of identity in postmodernism."We have a great desire to be supremely American," Calvin Coolidge wrote in 1924. That desire, Michaels tells us, is at the very heart of American modernism, giving form and substance to a cultural movement that would in turn redefine America's cultural and collective identity-ultimately along racial lines. A provocative reinterpretation of American modernism, Our America also offers a new way of understanding current debates over the meaning of race, identity, multiculturalism, and pluralism.Michaels contends that the aesthetic movement of modernism and the social movement of nativism came together in the 1920s in their commitment to resolve the meaning of identity-linguistic, national, cultural, and racial. Just as the Johnson Immigration Act of 1924, which excluded aliens, and the Indian Citizenship Act of the same year, which honored the truly native, reconceptualized national identity, so the major texts of American writers such as Cather, Faulkner, Hurston, and Williams reinvented identity as an object of pathos-something that can be lost or found, defended or betrayed. Our America is both a history and a critique of this invention, tracing its development from the white supremacism of the Progressive period through the cultural pluralism of the Twenties. Michaels's sustained rereading of the texts of the period-the canonical, the popular, and the less familiar-exposes recurring concerns such as the reconception of the image of the Indian as a symbol of racial purity and national origins, the relation between World War I and race, contradictory appeals to the family as a model for the nation, and anxieties about reproduction that subliminally tie whiteness and national identity to incest, sterility, and impotence. Seller Inventory # AAJ9780822320647

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Book Description Duke University Press, United States, 1997. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Arguing that the contemporary commitment to the importance of cultural identity has renovated rather than replaced an earlier commitment to racial identity, Walter Benn Michaels asserts that the idea of culture, far from constituting a challenge to racism, is actually a form of racism. Our America offers both a provocative reinterpretation of the role of identity in modernism and a sustained critique of the role of identity in postmodernism. We have a great desire to be supremely American, Calvin Coolidge wrote in 1924. That desire, Michaels tells us, is at the very heart of American modernism, giving form and substance to a cultural movement that would in turn redefine America s cultural and collective identity-ultimately along racial lines. A provocative reinterpretation of American modernism, Our America also offers a new way of understanding current debates over the meaning of race, identity, multiculturalism, and pluralism. Michaels contends that the aesthetic movement of modernism and the social movement of nativism came together in the 1920s in their commitment to resolve the meaning of identity-linguistic, national, cultural, and racial. Just as the Johnson Immigration Act of 1924, which excluded aliens, and the Indian Citizenship Act of the same year, which honored the truly native, reconceptualized national identity, so the major texts of American writers such as Cather, Faulkner, Hurston, and Williams reinvented identity as an object of pathos-something that can be lost or found, defended or betrayed. Our America is both a history and a critique of this invention, tracing its development from the white supremacism of the Progressive period through the cultural pluralism of the Twenties. Michaels s sustained rereading of the texts of the period-the canonical, the popular, and the less familiar-exposes recurring concerns such as the reconception of the image of the Indian as a symbol of racial purity and national origins, the relation between World War I and race, contradictory appeals to the family as a model for the nation, and anxieties about reproduction that subliminally tie whiteness and national identity to incest, sterility, and impotence. Seller Inventory # AAJ9780822320647

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